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NASA’s Psyche mission fires up its futuristic electric engines

The glowing blue ring of an electric Hall thruster. in an otherwise black image.
Image: NASA

NASA has turned on the electric Hall thrusters of Psyche, a spacecraft that’s now gently motoring toward a metal-rich asteroid embedded in the main asteroid belt beyond Mars. The agency says Psyche is in “full cruise” mode now, six months after launching on October 13th, 2023, on a conventional, SpaceX rocket.

On the way, NASA used Psyche to test laser-based deep space communications. The craft shot a communications laser back at the Earth from close to 10 million miles out, which is a first for NASA. It’s expected to reach its target and namesake, the Psyche asteroid, by 2029 and will orbit it for two years, observing and sending data back to NASA. Scientists suspect Psyche is actually the beginning core of a planet, also called a…

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